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Of Tithing and Taxes

A tax break is one of the many benefits of a tithing discipline.

Continued from page 1

 

As we near the middle of April, it's worth considering an additional benefit of tithing: the tax benefit. 

 

Exactly how does that tax benefit work? Charitable giving reduces the amount of taxable income you have – so the more money you have, and the higher tax bracket you're in, the more you benefit from giving money away. Remember, you can also claim charitable deductions for gifts other than cold, hard cash. For example, if you drive across the state to build a Habitat for Humanity house, you can deduct $0.14 per mile, though you can't claim a deduction for your time. (Some churches hold that people ought to give 10% of their income to the church, specifically, and other charitable support should be above and beyond that sum – the federal government, of course, doesn’t make such distinctions, and rewards your giving money to any sort of charitable organization, be it a church or synagogue, a university, hospice, or the Sierra Club.)

 

Caveat lector: do check with a certified accountant before claiming your charitable deductions. Those detail-minded CPAs have all the exemptions, qualifiers, asterisks, and loopholes at their fingertips. Exceptions notwithstanding, charitable giving can add up to significant savings on your taxes.

Is there dissonance between the spiritual discipline of giving money away and the material benefit of getting a tax break by doing so? Perhaps – though, even with the tax break, you will always end up with less money than if you hadn't donated anything to charity. And, as Bill Sheppard, an accountant in Americus, Georgia, told me, "If you're tithing just to receive the tax benefit, you've probably missed the point."

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